TEDx Illuminates Ideas, Leadership
TEDx Illuminates Ideas, Leadership

The ideas of tenacity, perseverance, self-discovery and inspiration shone brightly at the recent TEDxOaksChristianSchool event that was attended by over 1,000 members of the OCS community.

With the theme of "Illuminate," the day featured diverse speakers from widely different fields such as aerial arts, medicine, entertainment, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now in its fourth year, the annual event expands high school students' academic experience by bringing distinguished speakers onto campus, speakers they may not otherwise get a chance to hear in the traditional classroom setting. Faculty were also encouraged to facilitate discussions in the classroom based on the ideas presented at TEDx.

Oaks Christian has a rich tradition of outstanding academic offerings, but what is unique about the TEDx event is that it is the students who make it happen. The event is advised by Laura Mason, director of alumni relations, along with OCS parent Shelene Bryan, but the students drive all aspects: recruiting speakers, promotions and logistics. During the event itself, they live-stream on social media, and interact with guests during the lunch hour.

"I am so proud of the TEDx student committee led by Joel Fischinger and Brooke Bryan. There is a lot of planning that happens behind the scenes to make this event happen and I will miss our almost daily TEDx planning discussions. What an honor for me to work with such talented students. " said Mason.

Students start planning last August and the result of their hard work was evident with the quality of speakers and the audience response- multiple standing ovations.

Attendees were privileged to hear from the following:

  • Jen Bricker, an aerialist and acrobat who achieved tumbling championships early in life despite being born without legs. Adopted by American parents, who never let her say "I can't" Bricker grew up idolizing Romanian-American gymnast Dominique Moceanu. She later found out she was Moceanu's biological sister and that began an incredible journey of discovering God's path for her own life. No doubt, Bricker is a skilled athlete, but she soon realized public speaking was an "honor and a privilege" to reach people with her incredible story.


  • Neurosurgeon and OCS dad Dr. Ian Armstrong provided a fascinating virtual tour of the brain, technology that is being used worldwide to make medical strides. Through his work he is able to weave his faith, inspiring his patients and colleagues with his passion to serve God by saving people.


  • Penny Leon, Ugandan native raised with seven siblings, emphasized "Every decision you make determines your destination." Her choices to remain childless and be a voice for the oppressed led her to open Florence for Youth in Action, a non-profit helping orphans.


  • Travis Amick, United States Navy veteran told the story of being paralyzed from the shoulders down due to an accident (that he admitted was due to a poor decision) wherein he fell and broke his neck. Travis shared, "The happiest people don't have the best of everything, but MAKE the best of everything." With the help of his monkey companion, Siggy, who serves as his hands and feet, and the support of his sister, Amick was able to overcome thoughts of suicide and understand his life was valuable despite his physical challenges.


  • Comedian Ron Pearson provided both levity and levitation with his humor and juggling abilities. With a bit of wit and sarcasm, he challenged students to enjoy the "recesses" of their life and make the most of every opportunity by never "being late when the bell rings."


  • OCS dad and former Sony Pictures Television chair, Steve Mosko, modeled tenacity and perseverance through his example of helping make "Breaking Bad" a smash hit despite naysayers who said it would flop. A self-described "average student in school," from a humble home, Mosko encouraged the students with these words: "Don't let anybody tell you what you can and can't do. Don't let anyone stop your dream."


  • YouTube sensation Kent "SnubbyJ" Jenkins enthralled by playing his homemade Rimba Tubes, a PVC piano-pipe instrument, inspired by the famous Blue Man Group. A long-time fan of TBG, Snubby auditioned three times to join the group and was turned down every time. After the crushing disappointment, he realized that finding his own voice and own path was the start of his own success and self-acceptance.


  • As fierce Battlebot competitors, Jeff Vasquez and his sons delighted the audience with his creations. Not only are they entertaining, but Vasquez contributes to the common good through his work at an aerospace company, using his Battlebots building skills to ensure passenger jets are safe to fly.


  • Jonathan Koch, OCS dad and president for Asylum Entertainment, shared a message of perseverance from a severe illness which resulted in a hand transplant. It was a harrowing experience that tested his resolve. "I didn't will myself to health, I worked myself to health," he shared, noting that love and support also pulled him through. He challenged guests to never do the least they can do, but do the most when faced with difficult circumstances.


  • Speaking from experience, retired FBI agent Steve Moore told students they may face situations when doing the right thing will cost them. He shared his story of being involved in the investigation of the wrongful conviction of University of Washington student Amanda Knox, falsely held and later exonerated of murder charges. "If you are never in trouble for doing the right thing, then what are you doing?" he challenged.

This year's TEDx student committee was led by seniors Joel Fischinger and Brooke Bryan and also included Shaya Aguilar, Josh Choi, Ian Hartford, Morgan Davies, Tanner Aiello, Issie Zgorzelski, Sarah Lambert, Skylar White, Paul Hiepler, Axel Jensen, Charlee Rae Bender, Olivia Bianco, Jacqueline Weeger, Anna Cappello, Kayla Manion, Nicholas Sinopoli, Tatum Shore, and Eden Mindel. Many other students took on very important roles the week of and day of the event as speaker hosts, lunch runners, stagehands, greeters, etc.

TEDxOaksChristianSchool is an independently organized TED event and is operated under a license from TED.

Thank you to our 2017 TEDx sponsors: The Law Offi cs of Hiepler & Hiepler, the Hainer Foundation, and the Davies Family.

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